The Central Government notified the Medical Termination Amendment (Rules), 2021, enacted under Section 6 of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971 (34 of 1971) (MTP Act). One of the many amendments from the Rules, 2021 is the permission granted for the termination of pregnancy up to 24 weeks of pregnancy for specific categories of women.

The Amendment Rules 2021 provide for the following changes;

A. Termination of Pregnancy allowed upto 24 weeks to certain women

Rule 3B as inserted in the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Rules, 2003 provides that the following categories of women shall be eligible and allowed to terminate the pregnancy up to 24 weeks;

  • “Survivors of sexual assault or rape or incest;
  • Minors;
  • Change of marital status during the ongoing pregnancy (widowhood and divorce);
  • Women with physical disabilities [major disability as per criteria laid down under the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 (49 of 2016)];
  • Mentally ill women including mental retardation;
  • The foetal malformation that has substantial risk of being incompatible with life or if the child is born it may suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities to be seriously handicapped;
  • Women with pregnancy in humanitarian settings or disaster or emergency situations as may be declared by the Government.”

    B. Constitution of Medical Board

  • A Medical Board is to be constituted under sub-section (2C) of section 3 of the Amendment Act, 2021 pursuant to the requirement laid down in Rule 2 of the Amendment Rules, 2021 by the respective State Government or Union Territory.
    Under Rule 3A of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Rules, 2021, the powers of the Medical Board are enlisted as the following;
  • “To allow or deny termination of pregnancy beyond twenty-four weeks of gestation period under sub-section (2B) of the said section only after due consideration and ensuring that the procedure would be safe for the woman at that gestation age and whether the foetal malformation has substantial risk of it being incompatible with life or if the child is born it may suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities to be seriously handicapped;
  • Co-opt other specialists in the Board and ask for any additional investigations if required, for deciding on the termination of pregnancy”;

    C. Experience prescribed for Registered Medical Practitioner for conducting termination in certain cases

Rule 4 (ca) has been inserted in the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Rules, 2003 which lays down the following requisites for a registered practitioner to conduct the pregnancy termination up to nine weeks of gestation period by medical methods of abortion;

  1. An experience at any hospital for a period of not less than three months in the practice of obstetrics and gynecology; or
  2. Has independently performed ten cases of pregnancy termination by medical methods of abortion under the supervision of a Registered Medical Practitioner in a hospital established or maintained, or a training institute approved for this purpose, by the Government.”.

Conclusion:

Prior to the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Rules, 2021, the termination of pregnancy was allowed up to 20 weeks of pregnancy in the MTP Act, 1971. Essentially, the Amendments Rules aim to empower women with a choice for comprehensive and safe abortion care. It also recognizes the progress made in the field of medicinal science concerning legal abortions.